Using Two Truths and a Lie to Encourage Thorough Research

We’ve all been there. You’re in the midst of an informational writing project. You ask students to search for information. They do a quick Google search, choose the first thing they find, and say, “I’m done”. It’s frustrating, but in an age where information is so fast to find, it’s understandable that they would want an instant answer and be done.

This year, ahead of 5th grade’s informational writing unit, we decided to do an exercise in research by using the book series Two Truths and Lie by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson.  Each chapter in the book is made up of 3 stories.  Two are truths and one is a lie.  The books have a great opening that explains that all of the stories are pretty unbelievable and that it will be a challenge to figure out which is false. I chose a section out of each book to make a copy of.  I put them in groups of three so that every table would have two truths and a lie on the table.

For the opening of the lesson, I asked students if everything on the Internet was true.  They immediately said no, but I reminded them that even though we say that, so often, we fall victim to something that is actually false.  We looked at Jennifer LaGarde’s infographic about identifying fake news so that we could review the importance of knowing the author, domain, and especially triangulation.

I read the opening of Two Truths and a Lie and explained the task at hand.

  1. In pairs, students would choose one folder to sit at.
  2. Pairs would read the article in the folder.
  3. Pairs would use our trusted databases in Galileo as well as do an independent Google search to find evidence to prove that the article was a truth or a lie.
  4. When pairs felt like they had enough evidence, they could talk with me about what they found.

Things got off to a great start. Pairs opened up folders and read their article.  However, when computers opened, things went downhill (at first). Hands started going up immediately because students had found an image that matched an image in the book or they found a video that matched their article. Those pieces of evidence alone were enough to prove something true in several students’ eyes.

It was a great teaching moment because I was able to go back to our infographic and repeat the questions about domain, author, and triangulation.  Students often didn’t know who made the video or where the picture came from, so we could dig around and look for that info. It was easier to send students back into our databases or Google because they simply didn’t have enough evidence to prove.  Many of them got serious after the conversations and started matching text in the article to text they found in sources. They began showing me that they weren’t just looking at Wikipedia as their only source and were instead using trusted news sites and museum sites.

By the end of our time, most groups had found enough evidence to make their case, and I revealed the truths and lies, which are found at the back of the book.  This is definitely not a one time lesson that will solve all of our research problems, but I loved that so many students were receptive to the idea of digging through multiple sources to prove something right or wrong. Now, my hope is that the momentum we gained from this experience will lead us into our informational writing.

 

American Symbol Research in Kindergarten

Students in 2 Kindergarten classes have been hard at work researching American symbols as part of their social studies standards. Doing research projects with the youngest learners in our school doesn’t look like it does in the upper grades. We think about what some of the biggest barriers might be for our young creators and put pieces in places to support students in getting over those barriers.

First, students chose one of four American symbols to research: American flag, statue of liberty, liberty bell, and bald eagle.  In the library, we introduced students to a graphic organizer for collecting 3 facts about their chosen symbol. I learned from another Kindergarten teacher a few years ago during research to set an expectation that allows all students to succeed or exceed during the first research session. We asked students to have a goal of writing at least one fact during the first work session, but if they still had time, they should keep going.

research 1

Students used Capstone’s PebbleGo for their research. We love this database for many reasons but mostly because it breaks information down into manageable pieces and reads the text in a human voice for students. I modeled for students how to listen to a portion of the text and then think about what they had learned by listening. Then, we talked about what we would write on our organizer. This modeling was done with a different American symbol than the one students were researching.

At tables, I setup computers for students to use in pairs. We chose pairs because it gave students one more source of support as they worked. Also at each table, we tried to place an adult for support. The teacher, classroom paraprofessional, and me all worked at tables. If a parent volunteer or student teacher was available, they stayed at the 4th table. Otherwise, the adults took turns checking between tables.  We found that we had to continue modeling for students how to listen, ponder, and then write rather than just copying a sentence off the screen. However, some students still chose a sentence to copy.  All students left with at least one fact but many left with 3 or more.

research 2

After this initial work session, students continued their research in centers in the classroom.  Then, they returned to the library for another work session in small groups. Each group came for 15-20 minutes. We did a short tinkering session with Chatterpix Kids to see how you can take a picture of something, draw a mouth on it, and then record that picture talking. Ahead of time, I chose creative commons images of the symbols for kids to use for their pictures. Rather than having every student create their own Chatterpix, each group created one Chatterpix video with the iPads. Each student chose one fact from their research to read.

Before recording, students chose their fact. We decided the order students would read and practiced a few times. Students helped take the picture of the symbol and draw the mouth. Then, we pressed record and passed the iPad to record. If we needed to record a few times, we did. Then, we uploaded our videos to Youtube and created a playlist to share with the class, families, and you.  I hope you will take a moment to listen to their work.

I love building foundations of research in our early grades and seeing where these students end up by the time they are in 5th grade. We have a lot of work to do, but we celebrate the work of these Kindergarten students and what they have created.

Ms. Lauren’s American Symbols:

Ms. Boyle’s American Symbols:

Social Studies Character Traits: Historical Figures and Personal Connections

IMG_4902This year our school has been creating space for vertical alignment meetings for each subject area.  In these meetings, a representative from each grade level talks about the standards for each quarter and we start to look for ways that we might collaborate across grade levels or move curriculum around the better serve our students.  One of the conversations that keeps coming up in the social studies meeting is character traits and historical figures.  Every grade has a list of historical figures that they have to cover along with a list of character traits that each person represents.  Students really have to understand both the historical figure and the character trait in order to connect the two.  We’ve discussed looking for themes in character traits across the school curriculum so that we might feature specific traits each month with both historical figures, current figures, and ourselves.

IMG_4901

Third grade just tried something new with their standards.  They learn about Mary Mcleod Bethune, Susan B. Anthony, and Frederick Douglass and how these figures demonstrate leadership, diligence, cooperation, and courage.  Wow!  That’s a lot to understand.  I love how the 3rd grade approached this.  They spent two weeks  really going in depth with each historical figure.  They read informational text, used the PebbleGo database, and other online resources to know the main contributions of each historical figure.  Along the way, students gathered facts about each historical figure.

IMG_4906

They also spent time learning about diligence, leadership, courage, and cooperation. With these traits, they tried to think of real world examples of how each trait was used.

In the library, each class came for a 45 minute session to comb through all of the facts collected through the lens of a character trait.  Each student chose one character trait to focus on.  The goal was to look back through all of the facts about Susan B. Anthony, Mary Mcleod Bethune, and Frederick Douglass and pull out the facts that demonstrated that character trait.

To setup this time, I modeled the process by using another historical figure that wasn’t part of the social studies unit: Martin Luther King Jr.  We quickly reviewed the 4 character traits.  I thought students would better be able to pull out facts that demonstrated a character trait if they first had a personal connection to the trait.  I told a personal story about how I had shown courage.  When I was in high school, I was terrified of public speaking to the point that I would shake uncontrollably and get sick to my stomach.  By using courage, I have not eliminated this fear from my life, but I’ve learned to control it and now speak in front of many different groups of people.

After telling this personal story, we looked through lists of facts about Martin Luther King Jr and tried to pull out facts that matched each of the character traits.  Students turned to partners and talked about which facts matched which traits and why.

Then, students moved to tables and began their writing time by reflecting on themselves and their chosen character traits.  The teachers and I circulated to talk with students about this.  Then, they went through each of the 3 historical figures and pulled out facts that matched that character trait.

Back in class, students continued working on this process and then crafted their chosen facts into a script where they could explain how each of the historical figures demonstrated the chosen character trait.

Students returned to the library for 10-minute recording sessions.  They used Flipgrid to capture their thoughts.

I think that this was a big step toward thinking about how to make character traits and historical figures connect with our students’ worlds today.  I think we have more work to do, but I love that a new process has started.

I invite you to listen to all of the incredible 3rd grade videos about courage, diligence, leadership, and cooperation.

Leadership

Diligence

Courage

Cooperation

Empowering Student Voice Through Individual Projects: A Kindergarten Research Project

mick

My library uses a flexible schedule.  This means that I don’t see classes at a set time every week.  Instead, I collaborate with teachers and schedule lessons and projects as they fit into the curriculum each week.  This flexibility allows me to work with more than just homeroom classes to include classes like art and music, gifted, special education, and extended learning time groups.  It also allows me to work with small groups of students or even individuals.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working with Mick, a Kindergarten student.  He is an avid reader and is very curious about so many things.  Mick discovers a topic and wants to know all there is to know about it.  Our recent exploration has been around seahorses, which was sparked by a book that he read in his class.

Over several sessions, Mick came to the library for research.  We developed questions together on a Google doc.  He did all of the talking, and I did the typing.

Seahorse doc

Once we had a good list of questions, we started exploring PebbleGo, a Capstone Interactive ebook on seahorses, and Encyclopedia Britannica in our Galileo database.  We listened to the read aloud feature or I read the text aloud if it was too difficult for him to read on his own.  We paused often to see if any facts had answered our questions.  If Mick pulled out a fact, we put it into his own words and I added it to the doc.

After each session, I printed our notes for him to take back to class in case he did more research on his own or at home.  Once Mick felt like he had enough facts, I asked him what he wanted to do with his information.

He really wanted to “make a book using the computer”.  There are several tools we could use to do this, but we decided to use an iPad and the Storykit app.  This app lets you create multiple pages, type text, record audio, draw, take pictures, and import pictures.  I’ve seen other Kindergarten students use it, so I felt like it was the right tool for the job.

Mick’s first steps were to find some creative commons pictures of seahorses.  He used the camera on the iPad to take pictures of the pictures and put one picture on each page.

During another session, we went through Mick’s facts and selected an order for the information.  He read the facts he wanted, and I typed them onto the iPad.  I originally had him typing, but it was taking longer than we had time for.

In our final session, Mick recorded his voice reading each page.

The Storykit app lets you upload the book to the Storykit server and then you get a link to the work to share.

I invite you to take a look and a listen to Mick’s informational story on Seahorses.  I love it when student’s voices are empowered through projects in the library.  If you have comments for Mick, please leave them in the comments.

Mick's Seahorses (1)

Kindergarten Researchers in Action

Planet Research (4)Ms. Kelly Hocking’s Kindergarten class is hard at work again.  They were so excited by what they discovered using the Storykit app, that they decided to continue their work by making their own nonfiction book.  Their last adventure was about creating their own versions of folktales.

You can read and listen to their folktales online:

Ms. Kelly’s class has been very curious about space, so they decided as a class that they would work on creating informational books about the planets and solar system.  Ms. Kelly put the students into groups of 2-3 and each group chose a planet or part of the solar system to research.

Planet Research (11) Planet Research (5)

In the library, I pulled our books about space as well as checked out some books from the public library.  I also setup 2 computer areas.  One area was focused on PebbleGo and the other area focused on TrueFlix.  Even though the content of TrueFlix is written for older students, I felt like the read aloud function would support Kindergarten researchers.

Planet Research (3)

In class, students filled out a KWL chart to bring to the library.  When they came to the library with their questions, Ms. Kelly and I did a quick intro to the 3 areas available to them.  I loved how Ms. Kelly set a realistic goal for students in this big venture.  She said, “I want you to have at least one fact written down before you leave today”.  Of course, most groups wrote more than 1 fact, but every group left the library with a successful experience of meeting their expected goal.  To support students in their research, Ms. Kelly, a parent volunteer, and I rotated among the groups to help students with navigating the information in front of them.  Students continued this research for the next week in class.

Planet Research (8) Planet Research (6) Planet Research (1)

Next, the students came back to the library to work on prep for their book production.  Their KWL charts were filled with facts that they had discovered.  Ms. Kelly even shared that some groups had conflicting information about the order of the planets, so they had done some fact checking as a class before they came.  During this 2nd library session, we started in the floor again to establish our expectations for the day.  Every group had small squares of white paper, a long sheet of lined paper with room for illustrations, and a pencil.

Planet Research (9)

The task was to sort through the KWL chart and identify the facts that would go into the finished book.  One fact was written onto each piece of white paper.  The whole group worked on this part.  Ms. Kelly, the paraprofessional, and I circulated among the groups to assist with reading the KWL charts, correcting spelling, and searching for additional facts if needed.

Once 4-5 facts were identified, students sequenced the facts into an order that made sense.  Again, the adults helped students read aloud the facts that they identified and facilitated sorting the facts into different orders until a final order was chosen.  Then, the adults taped the papers to the larger lined paper.

Planet Research (9) Planet Research (10) Planet Research (2)

If students had time, they thought about what they could use in the school to photograph for each fact on the sheet.  They made notes or drew a picture to remind themselves what they talked about.  Ms. Kelly ad I encouraged students to stretch their brains to think about what they could creatively use to take a picture.  One group had a fact about the crust of their planet.  They decided they would take a picture of a piece of pizza in the cafeteria and draw an arrow to the crust.

Students will continue this process in class throughout this week.  Next week, they are checking out iPads to photograph things around the school as well as type their text into Storykit and publish their own ebooks.  I can’t wait to see how their work turns out.  I will most likely push into their class at some point next week to help, or they may schedule a time to come work with me again in the library as they finish their books.

Projects like this show me that it is completely possible for our youngest students to create amazing work that is based in real facts.  They can explore technology that no other class has attempted.  Some of the key factors in a successful project are plenty of time, realistic expectations, adult and peer support, and lots of encouragement.  I love how Ms. Kelly doesn’t rush a project of this size.  She understands that for quality work to be produced, we must give students the space, the support, and the time to make the work happen.